ChildProofing Your Home
My information is taken from “What to expect when you are expecting,” by Heidi Murkoff. I have recommended her books for years! I will cover crawling, standing and walking.
Congratulations — and welcome to a whole new phase of babyhood! Now that your infant has mastered movement on all fours, she’s able to explore her world, learn through her curiosity, and engage in some skill-boosting activities (like scooting toward her ball instead of crying for you to bring it to her). But along with your baby’s newfound mobility comes the potential for mischief as she crawls toward trouble spots (the electrical outlet, the cat’s litter box). By the way, Cat feces can contain a certain parasite that causes a condition called toxoplasmosis. Odds are good that you’ve gotten it already and experienced few or no ill effects, like most people with healthy immune systems. But if you contract it from contact while you’re pregnant, it can infect your unborn child and cause serious complications, like mental disability. For this reason, doctors recommend that pregnant women abstain from cleaning the litter box when they can—if you don’t have a choice, wear gloves while you do and diligently wash your hands afterward. So it’s time to start thinking about crawling safety. These tips will help ensure that your little mover and shaker segues into crawling with as few bumps and bruises as possible.
Make things safe for your little crawler. Haven’t gotten around to making your home a safe place for baby? Now is the time to get serious about babyproofing.
Here are some crawling safety basics:
- Move electrical and window cords out of the way; plug up electrical outlets; lock cabinets that contain dangerous items (think poisons, medicines, sharp objects, or breakables), and get rid of items on the floor that are small enough to fit into your baby’s mouth and possibly choke her (since your baby will mouth anything she gets her hands on!).
- Section off any danger zones (like the bathroom) by installing a safety gate at the entrance of the room or area or keeping the door closed.
- If your house has multiple levels, you’ll need to install a gate at the top and bottom of the stairs — that way your baby won’t be able to crawl up from the bottom and tumble back down. (Though you may want to put the bottom gate a few steps up from the landing so that your baby has a chance to practice her crawling skills on the bottom steps.)
Crawl as a couple.
A great way to help you understand the view your child has of the world — and see what potential dangers she may encounter (even if you have baby proofed) is to get down on the ground and crawl with her. You may notice a long-forgotten possible choking hazard under the armchair or discover that the edge of your coffee table is sharper than you thought! Crawling around with your baby will also give you the chance to teach her some crawling safety tips — i.e., what’s okay for her to grab and what’s not. It may take a while for her to catch on to the fact that she can’t have the food in the dog’s bowl but she can play with the Tupperware in the kitchen cabinet. Just keep at it though — after enough repetition on your part, she’ll get the picture.
Level the playing field (and floor).
Make sure that wood floors are free from splinters, nails, or any other sharp objects so that your baby has a smooth surface on which to roam. If you don’t have many carpeted areas in your home, you may want to consider getting a nonslip rug or floor padding (you can find colorful floor pads made especially for little ones at baby stores) to give your baby the chance to crawl on some soft surfaces — and reduce any bruising to her tender knees.
Apparel for crawling.
You may love the way your little girl looks in dresses, shorts, or little boy in shorts, but while they are learning to crawl, these garments could slow them down and frustrate her. But style shouldn’t have to take a backseat to crawling safety. Simply dress your babies in comfy pants (the better to cushion their knees) or lightweight leggings in warmer weather. (If you really feel the need to protect your little one’s knees when she’s sporting shorts in the summer, there are knee pads you can buy.) Make sure their pants aren’t too baggy or they’ll bunch up at the knees and interfere with their efforts to crawl.
Maintain an eagle eye.
No matter what crawling safety precautions you’ve taken in your home, you’ll still need to watch your new little crawler at all times to make sure she doesn’t get into any mischief or get hurt. The only time you can safely take your eyes off your baby is when she’s in her crib or play yard. And remember that when you’re not at home, your little crawler will be extra interested in exploring the new environment, which means you’ll need to be extra careful about keeping tabs on her!
How do you babyproof the house to protect your crawling baby?
- Build barriers. When babyproofing your home, make it difficult for your little one to get to hazardous areas (such as stairways, fireplaces and bathrooms) by sectioning them off with indoor safety gates — or locked doors in the case of hazardous rooms. When blocking off stairs, be sure to put a gate at the top and bottom of the stairway — a persistent baby may easily figure out how to crawl up the steps yet have no idea how to crawl back down (and possibly take a tumble). Consider putting the lower gate three steps from the bottom so that when your child eventually starts to crawl he’ll have a small area to practice stair-climbing skills (you’ll still need to stay within arm’s reach to be certain he doesn’t take a tumble and hurt himself).
- Redecorate or remove. Breakables are best kept out of your baby’s reach, so stash that figurine that you love on a high shelf. If any of the houseplants you own are poisonous — say, that fabulous philodendron — gate them off (or give them to a family member to keep for you) until you are sure your child won’t nibble on the leaves. But what about that perfectly safe but huge plant your mother-in-law got you? Babyproofing the house takes priority, so you can put it behind the sofa, where it’s difficult for your baby to get at.
- Learn to love locks. When it comes to childproofing your home, locks are a parent’s best friends. To start (while your baby is still floor-bound), invest in enough cabinet locks for all your different rooms that contain potentially poisonous or dangerous products inside (these include cleaning products, medicines, power tools and alcoholic beverages, among other things). Get ones that lock automatically when you shut the door; otherwise, you’ll have to remember to lock them every time you open and close a cabinet. When your child starts to stand and can reach higher, you can put locks on certain drawers too (like the one that holds the sharp knives). Also, if possible, try using hazardous cleaning supplies or tools only when your baby is napping, in a playpen (if he’s content to stay there for a while), or when another adult can watch him. And don’t take medication in front of your baby or use the one-a-day pill dispensers, which will look like an enticing treat or a toy to a little one who imitates everything you do.
- Be wary of wires and cords — which are strangulation hazards. When babyproofing the house, tie up electrical wires to keep them out of your baby’s grasp and cover outlets (don’t give your child the opportunity to realize that his tiny fingers may fit in those holes!). Better yet, when childproofing your outlets, replace the switch plates with ones that automatically slide to cover up outlets when they’re not in use. As for cords attached to window coverings, shorten them, attach plastic covers to the ends, and secure them to the wall with a tie-down device (or think about buying new window treatments that have kid-safe wands instead of cords). Also be sure your baby’s crib is nowhere near these cords — you never know when he’ll learn to pull himself up in his crib and start to expand his reach.
Now that your toddler is toddling, it is time to step up your childproofing efforts so it’s a safe place to roam.
Few things are more exciting than watching your little one lift himself up from all fours onto two feet — and then discover that those two feet can take him places, places that you have never dreamed of. But normal growth and development say that he will be standing and then walking, and running. Therefore, child safety hazards are mounting, and some different childproofing efforts will need to kick in immediately!
It is easy to put away your fragiles, but there are things in the home that you cannot put away, such as your toilets, stairways, basically everything is a hazard! My son could turn most things into a dangerous situation, therefore I used to carefully look at each room and figure out what would be a problem. My best advice to you is to begin childproofing your home before your toddler’s newfound mobility and skills get him into trouble. Fortunately, with the right childproofing gadgets and maneuvers, you can significantly reduce the odds of the bumps and bruises that come with a child’s first steps. Let’s talk through the areas that are filled with child safety hazards:
Corners and edges. The rectangular sleek coffee table with the glass top made your living room look so chic last year, but now that your toddler is walking, it’s an accident waiting to happen. Cushion the table corners and edges with bumpers (available at baby stores) that can soften the impact if your toddler knocks into them. The same bumpers work on any sharp edges throughout the house (such as fireplace hearths and low windowsills). When my son was a toddler, he fell against the hearth, not by the corner, but rather along the straightedge and wound up in the ER for stitches on his forehead. Bumps will happen, so make sure you’re prepared to treat head injuries (though kissing boo-boos is usually the best remedy) or in serious cases, take them to the ER.
Hazardous substances. It’s no longer enough to stash antifreeze (looks like green Kool-Aid) or birth-control pills (candy!), or any pills on high shelves, especially if your toddler has the climbing skills of a little monkey. So while childproofing your home, store these and other household products (such as cleaning supplies, medications and alcohol) in locked cabinets, well out of reach of curious little hands.
Stairs and doorways. Keep your little walking tot away from stairways by installing sturdy hardware-mounted safety gates at the top of the stairs and at the bottom (consider putting the lower gate three steps from the bottom, so your child has a small area to practice stair-climbing skills). Seal off high-hazard rooms such as the bathroom (which contains water dangers and electrical appliances like hair dryers) and the office (which may have child safety hazards like computer wires and staplers) with hard-to-turn plastic doorknob covers (you can find them at baby stores or hardware stores). Or install a lock high above your child’s reach.
Windows. One of the biggest hazards with windows is making certain that your child can’t fall out of the window. Installing metal window guards that screw into the sides of the window frame and have bars no more than four inches apart. If you have blinds or shades, it’s imperative to keep the cords (which are strangulation hazards) out of your toddler’s reach. For information on how to shorten and secure cords when childproofing your home, check out www.windowcoverings.org. Better yet, consider cordless window coverings — especially in your child’s room.
Hot spots. When your little guy started crawling, one of the first baby proofing tips you heard was to cover your electrical outlets. But now that he’s cruising or walking, you need to guard against electrical appliances and burns on a new level. For instance, in the kitchen, use knob covers on the stove to block your toddler from turning on burners. And while you cook, use the back burners whenever possible. If you must use the front burners, turn the cookware handles away from the front of the stove, so your child can’t reach up and grab them. Make certain that knives are out of reach. Other items you want to make sure your toddler doesn’t grab? Electrical appliances on counters. So be sure to keep things (like the toaster and food processor in the kitchen, and the hair dryer and curling iron in the bathroom) away from the edge of counters so that they’re beyond your toddler’s grasp, and keep all electronic items unplugged. Remember — accidents happen, so make sure you learn about treating skin burns. NEVER USE BURN CREAM ON A BURN! Cover it with clean gauze and send to the ER.
Standing water. To your child, a toilet looks like a tiny pool or a dumping ground for found objects. Use a plastic safety latch and teach guests how to open and close it, too.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect has strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible primary sources. Health information on this site is regularly monitored based on peer-reviewed medical journals and highly respected health organizations and institutions.
- Be vigilant. There’s no substitute for your eagle-eyed supervision, so never leave your baby alone, unless he’s safely in a crib or play yard — and then only for a few minutes, unless he’s sleeping. Know basic baby first aid and keep emergency numbers handy. Using the refrigerator with a magnet or inside of a cabinet is usually convenient. Staying hands-on also gives you the opportunity to teach your baby that some items are off-limits. If he reaches for something that he can’t have, firmly say, “No, that’s not for babies,” and offer him something he can have, such as one of his toys. After lots of repetition, he’ll eventually get the message.
- Create safe havens. Make sure your baby’s bedroom and, ideally, another room such as a family room, is protected to the hilt, with stairway gates, outlet covers, drawer latches, furniture brackets, and the like. Then your baby can play in these spaces without you hovering so closely; although you should still stay nearby, he needs freedom to experiment in order to learn. Similarly, you may want to designate certain rooms, such as formal living and dining rooms, as baby-free zones, so you can still enjoy some adult decor. Close off these spaces with a baby gate or a door equipped with a doorknob protector (a gadget that allows only adults to twist the knob).
- Stash breakables to prevent heartbreak. For now, pack away precious heirlooms and other fragile valuables.
- Patrol for poisons. Store cleaning products, medicines, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, and anything else hazardous out of reach and out of sight (preferably in a locked cabinet). Also note that some houseplants can be dangerous — keep those out of reach as well, and pick up any dropped leaves or flowers immediately. Even better, donate those plants/flowers to friends.
- Bathrooms. Cover the tub spout with protective padding. And never, ever, ever leave a baby alone in the tub or if you use the sink, do NOT turn your head ever! Dear friends of mine were bathing their little one in the sink at Grandma’s. The wife was a physician, husband, a counselor. The little one touched the handles, the sink filled with scalding water and it was too late. The baby was rushed to the ER with 2nd degree burns. Also, babies can drown in as little as an inch of water, in only a few minutes’ time.
- Be alert away from home. Grandma’s house won’t be as safe for your baby as his own home is; if he spends a lot of time there, consider investing in some basic safety devices to keep there as well.
How do you childproof your house to protect your cruising or walking toddler?
- Fix furniture. With your tot cruising around and holding onto furniture, or even climbing on it like a monkey, he may be able to unsteady even the sturdiest-looking pieces. So secure bookshelves, dressers, standing lamps and TV cabinets to the wall (you can get toddler safety products like brackets and fasteners at any baby or home improvement store). Also, now that your child is pulling up to a stand, wobbling, and probably falling a lot more, you’ll want to pad the edges of sharp corners in your house. This will soften the blow if your little guy comes crashing down. Use childproofing bumpers to cover the edges of square or rectangular coffee tables, low benches, fireplace hearths (if they’re not already gated off) and low windowsills.
- Wise up to window dangers. Your toddler’s increased mobility means he is now more adept at reaching and (yikes!) opening windows. Childproof your home by installing metal window guards that screw into the sides of the window frame and have bars no more than four inches apart.
- Heed high-hazard rooms. Sometimes the best way to childproof your home is to simply make some rooms off-limits. For instance, you may want to seal off the bathroom (which contains water dangers, cosmetics, medications and electrical appliances like hair dryers) and the office (which has computer wires and staplers) with a gate or a doorknob protector that little hands can’t open.
- Beware of burns. Your child can reach new heights these days, which means you need to take your childproofing efforts to a whole new level. For example, in the kitchen, keep the oven latched and put knob covers on the stove to block your toddler from reaching up and turning on burners. Use back burners whenever possible; if you do have to use a front burner, turn the cookware handle away from the front of the stove, so your child can’t grab it. Also, keep appliances (like the toaster and food processor) away from the edge of counters where your determined toddler can get to them.
- Deal with drowning risks. Keep your curious tot from having access to water when alone — no matter how much he loves water play. A child can drown in as little as an inch or two of water in just a few minutes’ time, so you don’t want to take any chances on this childproofing matter. With that in mind, keep the bathroom door closed and secured at all times or lock your toilets with safety latches for the lids (this will also save your plumbing by preventing your tot from dumping a precious toy into the porcelain pool to see if he can swim). And never leave your child alone in the tub.
Just remember, no matter how much you childproof your home, there’s no substitute for your eagle-eyed supervision — kids can be surprisingly creative when it comes to getting into mischief.
So always keep your child in sight (except if he’s in a crib or play yard — and then only for a few minutes, unless he’s sleeping), and be extra alert in the kitchen and bathrooms. While you don’t need to hover at all times (after all, your child needs a little freedom to experiment and learn!), staying close by and observant gives you the chance to teach your tot that some items are off-limits.
When you do see your child going for a dangerous item, use the opportunity to firmly say, “No, that’s not safe to touch. Here’s a toy you can touch instead.” And when you can, use warning words like “ouch!” or “hot!” to reinforce your safety lessons. Eventually, your child will start to catch on.
If you or someone you know that needs our services for an unplanned pregnancy or pregnancy/parenting issues, please call us at 847-870-8181,
by: Joanne Bratta
Executive Director of Hopeful BeginningsBack To Blog